Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Flash returns after an extended hiatus with a farewell to old friends

Grant Gustin
Grant Gustin
Photo: Katie Yu (The CW)

Just as “Success Is Assured” didn’t play much like a season finale, “All’s Well That Ends Well” doesn’t resemble a traditional season premiere, and for similar reasons. “Success” was the last episode completed before COVID-19 hit a year ago and shut down all production, but the season still had three episodes to go. At least some portion of “All’s Well That Ends Wells” was shot before the shutdown, although it’s hard to say how much of the story was retooled over the extended break, if at all. Ten long months after the previous chapter, “All’s Well” drops us right back into the action without much ado.

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It’s a little disorienting at first, mainly because what Harry Wells refers to as the “JV Squad” is now in charge at STAR Labs and several longtime regulars are missing in action. You may recall that Cisco was on a trip to Atlantis and Caitlin was staying with her mother, and as for Ralph...well, we’ll get to that later. (Officially he and Sue are in hiding because she’s being blamed for Carver’s death.) Meanwhile Brandon McKnight (Chester P. Runk) and Kayla Compton (Allegra Garcia) have both been bumped up to series regulars. Chester and Allegra are working with Nash Wells to get the Artificial Speed Force online, as Barry is now down to one percent of his speed.

Iris is still trapped in the Mirrorverse, while Eva is on the loose in the real world, wreaking havoc on Black Hole and its tech. Her targets include Sam Scudder, the original Mirror Master, who gets an extremely perfunctory sendoff as Eva shatters him to bits. It turns out he was her creation all along, and his sudden absence leaves Top to fend for herself with Cecile as her defense attorney. In the portion of the episode that makes the least sense, it turns out that Top also has empathic abilities, and she and Cecile take turns throwing emotions into each other.

Tom Cavanagh
Tom Cavanagh
Photo: The CW

The real emotional core of the hour concerns Nash Wells and his attempts to power the new Speed Force. The Council of Wellses that lives in his head convenes and determines that their multiversal particles can do the trick, but only if Nash acts as an organic receptor for transferring the energy, a turn of events that will result in his death. Not ready to die, Nash enlists Allegra into a plan that backfires and zaps all the Wellses (including the latest addition, the hammy Harrison Orson Wells) into Barry’s mind.

This provides an opportunity for Grant Gustin to have some fun, which has happened way too infrequently in recent seasons. Barry channels the various Wells personas, including Sherloque and H.R., and Gustin digs into each of them like he couldn’t wait to break out of mopey Barry mode, if only for a few minutes. Here’s hoping that’s a harbinger for a looser, more lighthearted era of The Flash. (I know, I say that every season and it never pans out. But one of these days!)

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Once the Wellses have been reintegrated into Nash, he accepts his fate. A jet full of Black Hole tech is flying over the city, with a bomb set to detonate and possibly kill thousands. The only one who can stop it is the Flash, and he needs his speed, so Nash grabs the fusion sphere and says his goodbyes, giving his alternate selves a chance to bid farewell, too. It’s a moving sequence and a nice tribute to all that Cavanagh has brought to the series, but it’s not quite all it could have been given that only Barry and two characters introduced last season are around to see it. Wouldn’t this have packed more of a punch with Cisco and Caitlin in attendance?

This is still the realm of comic books, so there’s reason to doubt we’ve seen the last iteration of Wells after all. (If there’s been news of Cavanagh leaving the show, I missed it, but even without a Wells he could continue as Eobard Thawne.) Team Flash doesn’t feel complete without him...in fact, it doesn’t feel complete at all in this oddly underpopulated return. Again, this episode wasn’t constructed as a season premiere, so there are legitimate reasons for it to be a little off. It appears that the original plan remains in place, and it will take two more episodes to wrap up the Mirrorverse saga. In that sense, the “real” season premiere is yet to come.

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Stray observations

  • So, yeah, about Ralph Dibny. He’ll be back, but it won’t be Hartley Sawyer in the role, as Sawyer was fired when some distasteful old social media posts surfaced last year. Luckily, Ralph has shape-shifting abilities, so it’s not much of a leap to cast another actor for his (reportedly brief) next appearance.
  • The good news is that we should be seeing more of Natalie Dreyfuss as Sue Dearbon, drastically under-utilized last season.
  • Eva learns that she’s not the original after all. The real Eva McCulloch was killed in the particle accelerator explosion, and this Eva is her mirror duplicate.
  • It’s been a while! Who knew it would take this long, but having The Flash back feels like a little bit of normality being restored.
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